UN peacekeepers ‘fathered and abandoned thousands of children’ in Democratic Republic of Congo
A shocking new report claims that since 1999, UN peacekeepers from 12 different countries have fathered and abandoned thousands of children in the penniless Democratic Republic of Congo.
The report also alleges that UN-mandated soldiers and police in the war-torn country have abused children, raped young women and traded food for “survival sex.”
One victim was just 10 years old when her aunt trafficked her to UN peacekeepers who showered her with beer, raped her and impregnated her, the report said.
Most absentee fathers were from Tanzania and South Africa, while others were from Morocco, Uruguay, Nepal and Bangladesh.
The men were in the country in roles ranging from soldiers, officers and pilots to drivers, cooks, doctors and photographers.
UN peacekeepers first entered the DRC in 1999 as part of a ceasefire agreement to end the Second Congo War, fighting between themselves and Rwanda, Uganda, Angola, Zimbabwe and Nabibia, along with rebel movements.
A shocking new report states that since 1999, UN peacekeepers from 12 different countries have fathered and then abandoned thousands of children in the poverty-stricken Democratic Republic of Congo.
The report also alleges that UN-mandated soldiers and police in the war-torn country abused children, raped young women and traded food for “survival sex.” Pictured: Bangladeshi soldiers from the UN Mission in DR Congo (MONUSCO) fire on militias to protect the withdrawal of a Red Cross team
Sexual abuse and exploitation became a serious problem not long after UN troops entered the country, The conversation reports.
The presence of peacekeepers often fuels a rapid increase in sex trafficking and brothels near military bases, child prostitution, the exchange of sex for goods or food, and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV.
While there should be policies in place to prevent the misconduct, it has been recognized as a systemic problem and every UN mission has been linked to allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse.
The youngest girl among the researchers interviewed to have a child with a peacekeeper was just ten years old, while half were under eighteen when she became pregnant.
The study was led by a team from the University of Birmingham that spoke to dozens of children of peacekeepers between the ages of six and 19. They also spoke in depth with the mothers and conducted a total of thousands of interviews.
Of the 2,858 interviews conducted, nearly half (1,182 people) raised unsolicited the problems of the abuse of peacekeepers and abandoned children.
They found that the mothers of these children were often rejected by their own families and stigmatized within their communities, while the children grew up in abject poverty and neglected and excluded.
Special adviser to the UN Secretary-General, Prince Zeid Raad Al-Hussein, acknowledged in 2005 that “many victims, especially those who have ‘peacemakers’ and have been abandoned by the fathers, are in desperate financial predicament. .[s]’
Kirstin Wagner, who worked on the study, said: ‘The DRC remains one of the poorest and most conflict-ridden countries in the world.
“The duration and scope of the peacekeeping mission there suggests that significant numbers of children are born as a result of sexual abuse.
“There may have been thousands of children left behind by peacekeepers in the DRC,” she said.
“Part of the problem is that some of those deployed seem to view these missions as an opportunity for sex tourism and sex crimes that they are unlikely to commit in their home countries.”
Most mothers described their sexual contact with UN personnel as “transactional,” Wagner said. It was based on the exchange of food, clothing and money, with occasional arrangements for soldiers to pay girls’ school fees in exchange for sex.
She added: ‘Some women engaged in sex because they wanted a cell phone or a new haircut or new shoes. That’s different from women having sex because they need food to live, which is called survival sex.”
The study focused on the experiences of children left without a father. A 13-year-old said, “I never go to school. I have no food aid and even when I get food I start to think about my mother, who lives abroad, and my father, whom I have never seen.
Monaco [the UN peacekeeping operation] should remember those left here in Kisangani. We are considered orphans.’
A UN peacekeeping spokesman said: “Over the past five years, we have taken action to prevent these abuses, investigate alleged perpetrators, including military contingents, and hold them accountable, including through repatriation.
Researchers found that the mothers of these children were often rejected by their own families and stigmatized within their communities, while the children grew up in abject poverty and neglected and excluded.
“We will continue to report publicly on allegations as we receive them and on the status of these allegations in our public database.
“Staff are segregated from the organization and no one who has been the subject of a substantiated investigation into sexual misconduct can be rehired within the system.”
This month, only 426 allegations of fathering children by peacekeepers have been recorded since 2007, of which only 44 have been substantiated. The rest is pending.
More than 97,000 peacekeepers from more than 120 countries currently serve in 12 peacekeeping operations around the world.
Despite the duty of all UN personnel to protect and ‘do no harm’, there have been reports of sex crimes against local citizens, mainly young girls, everywhere.
Massive protests against the presence of the UN peacekeeping mission, known as the United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO), have shaken the east of the country in recent weeks.
But these protests are more about a lack of protection of the peacekeeping operation against rebel groups than about the behavior of the peacekeepers towards the local population.